Illinois Video Gambling Machines Surpass Casinos in Tax Revenue

Illinois is inundated with video gambling machines, and their impact is changing the state gambling landscape. Tax revenue from the slots-like terminals was higher than casino revenue for the first time last year. This shift is forcing casino cities to end grant programs and cut funding for nonprofits.

The statewide average is one video gambling machine for every 444 residents, but in the unincorporated areas that were far from casinos, the percentage is much higher. The town of Oakbrook Terrace is the most saturated with a machine for every 46 residents.

Oakbrook Terrace, which only has 2,500 residents could argue that its average daily population is a more important measure. During the day, the town hosts up to 60,000 people who come to work in office buildings or attend conferences in the town's seven hotels.

Without any casinos in the area, the gamblers traveling through Oakbrook Terrace turn to the gambling machines at bars and restaurants, where they spent nearly $5 million last year.

If the machines were not there, some travelers would have driven to area casinos. Casino revenue has been falling statewide while video gambling revenue has risen. In 2017, the state collected $393 million in taxes from casinos, down from $476 in 2012 before video gambling was legalized.

The problem for casino cities is they are no longer making revenue on patrons who drive in from out of town. On a state level, the tax revenue from video gambling does not go to the same place as casino revenue, causing programs funded solely by casino revenue to be reduced or cut entirely.

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